Are You Ready to Pursue Your Degree?
Like any major life event, the decision to pursue your degree calls for plenty of careful contemplation. But if you’re considering going to school online, you can take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. As of 2013, more than half of all college students fell under the “nontraditional student” umbrella. That means that, despite your age or living situation, becoming a student again is a goal you’re capable of achieving. Consider these factors to decide whether you’re ready to enroll.
Your Degree, Your Goals
The subject you choose to study could put you on a potentially lifelong career path. To build a stable foundation for your success, you'll want to establish clear, specific career goals before you start:
- What field do you plan on pursuing, and in what position would you like to start?
- Will you need an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree? While the former sometimes leads to comparatively lower paying jobs, it's often a smart and affordable stepping stone into further learning.
Once you have these basic goals hammered out, academic advisers and admissions staff can help you sort through the finer details of a course plan.
Working Toward Your Education
Although the job may seem like the destination, work experience can be part of your college journey. Spending time interning or shadowing in your desired field can be a revelation – you'll not only find out whether the work is fulfilling, but you’ll have a chance to pick the brains of your peers. Their advice can help you grasp the entry-level job requirements, and it may even give you an idea or two for choosing your elective courses.
Lifestyle and Mindset
While on-campus learning offers structure and accountability, online university students must cultivate a self-directed mindset before setting off on the degree path. Strong time management abilities are a must, as are written communication skills. Give yourself deadlines for everyday activities (e.g. pay bills on time, wake up a half-hour earlier, etc.) and practice meeting them. Hone your email writing skills so you sound as good online as you do in person. If you start your online college journey with the necessary self-discipline already in place, you’re setting yourself up for success.
In addition to personal skills, tackling today's university – especially an online one – requires technological proficiency. Browsing skills are a must, but you should also be familiar with academic research and word-processing software. Knowing your way around mobile apps and cloud storage platforms is a big perk, too.
On a financial level, look into the costs of your top degree picks. Scan the institution's website or call its admissions office to learn about financial aid, scholarships, or tuition reimbursement programs. With myriad options available today, you'll likely find a program that gels with your budget rather than one that puts stress on it.
The First Step
It takes a combination of introspection and action to pursue your degree, but preparedness pays off. Consider your career goals, your schedule, and your financial means as you compare programs. Taking time to start your journey on the right foot means you'll be starting your college education with a confident – and stable – stride. Are you ready to take the first step?
By Dan Ketchum for Ashford University
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